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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Talk on KU Historic District draws curious crowd

April 13, 2013

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KU Historic District map ( .PDF )

Kansas University’s newly designated historic district was of interest enough to pack a room Saturday at the Watkins Community Museum of History.

More than 30 history buffs showed up for a talk about the district — and a second, adjacent district for which planning is in the works — led by Elizabeth Rosin, founder of Rosin Preservation LLC, and Vance Kelley, a principal at Treanor Architects.

“When you talk about a project like this, it’s been a long time in the making,” Kelley said.

In February the Kansas Historical Society Historic Sites Board of Review agreed to create a KU Historic District surrounding Jayhawk Boulevard and the crest of Mount Oread. It’s listed now on the Register of Historic Kansas Places and awaiting consideration for the National Register of Historic Places.

Rosin and Kelley walked Saturday’s audience through the many facets of the area.

The district features more than 20 buildings of varying architectural styles, including some already listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places.

But the district isn’t only about buildings. Objects such as sculptures, landscape elements such as Marvin Grove and even views — designated by wedge-shaped outlines on the historic district map — add up to make the area significant, Rosin said.

“It’s easy to take these elements for granted because they’re so integral to KU,” Rosin said, noting that visiting many campuses without such attributes leaves one feeling like something’s amiss.

The second proposed historic district — which focuses on residential and student life — encompasses the chancellor’s residence and scholarship halls east of the main district.

A draft is expected to be presented to the Campus Historic Preservation Board later this week, Rosin said.

“This area has its own character and its own significance, but it’s going to be another piece of that KU story,” she said.

Kelley said historic district designations help ensure the right discussions are had and the right decisions made as the campus evolves, and that’s usually appealing to parents of prospective students, if not the students themselves.

“Seeing a university is a good steward of what they have really comes into play,” he said.

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